Public affairs officer in Republic of Congo says she's proud of her Milford roots

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in The Advocate, Jonathan Law High School’s newspaper.

Jonathan Law High School graduate Vanessa Rozier, currently the public affairs officer for the U.S. Embassy in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, visited her alma mater last week and told students she is proud of her Milford roots.

Rozier is serving her first two-year post as the public affairs officer for the embassy, representing the United States government in this central African country.

Upon graduation from Jonathan Law in 2005, Rozier earned an academic scholarship to study journalism at Howard University. She spent her summers interning for Dow Jones Newswire in Naples, Fla., and reported for the Bloomberg News Washington Bureau, covering the 2008 U.S. presidential election campaign.

She became the editor in chief for the daily Hilltop newspaper her senior year at Howard, where she had the opportunity to interview such notables as former President Bill Clinton, then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, former presidential candidate Alan Keys, and Cornell West.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in 2009, she was awarded the Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Foreign Affairs Fellowship in 2010 (one of 20 fellows from a nationwide contest of 300 applicants) and attended Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies to study international relations.

Rozier spoke to Law’s senior class when she visited last Wednesday.

Law’s Model United Nations Club, journalism, and broadcast journalism classes also gathered in the school’s auditorium, where Rozier took center stage. Rozier admitted she was somewhat apprehensive about speaking to students, but said she was impressed by the response she received.

“It was really cool to see so many people interested in what I’m doing,” Rozier said. “I was not a normal person because I wanted to be in journalism and wanted to go outside the States. I wanted to change things and learn new things all the time, and that wasn’t cool. So seeing that now that is accepted and normal … I think that’s amazing. I’m happy to have come from here.”

Rozier began her speech by sharing one of her favorite quotes by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She then jokingly reassured students she did not have Ebola and went on to explain more about Africa and the Republic of the Congo.

She also shared some anecdotes about her travels around the world, as well as some pros and cons of her career. She ended her presentation with a question-and-answer session.

As a former Law student, Rozier was able to connect with a wide array of students, from aspiring journalists to college-anxious students.

“I think it’s crazy that she is so influential, and it’s great how humble she is, even though she is probably one of the coolest people that has ever walked in this building,” said Law senior Briana Williams. “I think that she is the perfect role model. She is everything that girls and the senior class should look up to.”

Law senior Reaven Grant said she was impressed with Rozier’s work ethic and determination.

“Seeing someone in that position, who was just like me a few years ago, gives me hope,” Grant said. “Her hard work proves that you can do anything if you are diligent. I think her story is remarkable.”

The visit was coordinated by Law secretary Robin Ramos and Law history teacher Kelsey Burns.

“I just hoped it would really broaden students’ perspectives,” Burns said. “For the whole senior class, I thought it was a really good opportunity. She worked for the State Department and was one of the youngest diplomats ever appointed to serve internationally, so I thought instead of just keeping it to a small group of students we should open up the opportunity.”

Law’s students and faculty were very appreciative of Rozier taking time out of her short stay in Milford to share her experiences with students.

“Vanessa is such an amazing example for all Law students of what can happen when you work hard and have big dreams. Her speech was phenomenal and she no doubt inspired everyone who listened to her story,” said Chris Kulenych, an English teacher at Law and the adviser of Law’s student newspaper, The Advocate, and Law’s daily morning news show, Eagle Eye News.

Burns said she hopes to have Rozier back sometime in the near future and to get some other graduates to return and speak to future senior classes.

“I wish we could get more alumni to come back and talk to all the kids about what they learned here, and where they went when they left here,” Burns said.